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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Crown Prince’s triumphal US tour will have a lasting impact

In less than a year, Mohammed bin Salman has upended the world's preconceptions

Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman held discussions with Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson with a view to forging crucial partnerships in technology and accelerating investment into Saudi Arabia. Saudi Press Agency
Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman held discussions with Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson with a view to forging crucial partnerships in technology and accelerating investment into Saudi Arabia. Saudi Press Agency

The tour began in Washington, where Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ambitious and restless crown prince, cemented his country’s ties with the United States. Virtually the entire US political establishment queued up to meet the man who is spearheading a radical transformation of his conservative kingdom. Donald Trump, the US president, loudly stated that the bond between Saudi Arabia and his nation was stronger than ever before, signing a major arms deal with Washington’s oldest ally in the Middle East. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill defeated a proposal in the Senate to halt US support for Riyadh’s campaign in Yemen to restore that country’s legitimate government.

That was only the start. Over the next three weeks, Prince Mohammed crisscrossed the US, meeting business leaders, tech gurus, space pioneers, opinion-makers and celebrities. He dined with Hollywood stars Michael Douglas and Morgan Freeman to discuss bringing Western films to Saudi Arabia, which will open its first cinema on April 18 after a 35-year ban. He received a rousing reception at Harvard and MIT. He held discussions with Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson with a view to forging crucial partnerships in technology and accelerating investment into Saudi Arabia. He even met Oprah Winfrey. The US is agog with conversations about Hollywood blockbuster Black Panther’s upcoming premiere in Saudi Arabia.

There is no precedent for what has been accomplished by Prince Mohammed over the past three weeks. He presented himself as the symbol of a new Saudi Arabia, and Americans embraced him without hesitation. It is customary for foreign leaders to dodge questions; Prince Mohammed invited questions and answered them in great detail. His transparency left no room for doubt: Saudi Arabia is open to the world. Crown Prince Mohammed did not, however, rest on his laurels. He immediately flew to France on an official bilateral visit. In Paris, he will woo European businesses, while repeating his persuasive argument for a tougher stance against Iran. In less than a year, Crown Prince Mohammed has upended the world’s perception about Saudi Arabia. The road ahead will not be easy, but the world is rooting for Saudi Arabia, thanks to its crown prince.

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